Portland Oregon-Based Digital Media

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Location: SE 50th and Divison
Number of carts: 14
Covered: Yes
Pros: Lots of entertainment options, wet naps, free wifi, good food choices.
Cons: Beer is only on weekends, really close to Los Gorditos.
Types of food (check their site for current carts): Turkish, burgers, coffee, seafood, Pork, Venezuelan, chicken and waffles, Pizza, Southwestern, Vietnamese, Korean, Thai
http://www.alacartspdx.com/

Ala Cart is much more than just a cart pod. It’s like a cart experience filled with fun for the whole family. What does that even mean? Well, I’ll tell you. In addition to some 14 food carts, there’s also a little playground for kids, cornhole for big kids, sidewalk chalk for beautifying the parking lot and trivial pursuit cards on the tables. Care about cleanliness? They have free wet naps and the port-a-potty has a sink in it. Oh and perhaps the most exciting for a nerd such as myself- FREE WI-FI! And that’s not all. There’s a hair salon (perhaps a trim while you wait?), an ATM and plenty of covered and uncovered seating.
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Of course, if all the carts sucked, all this would be unexciting (although you could grab food at Los Gorditos – the best Mexican food in Portland right down the street and sneak it in) but that’s not a problem. There are several carts that serve interesting and delicious food. I’ll be honest, I fully judge a cart by its cover, and today I selected La Arepa because their menu was all pictures. The cart specializes in Venezuelan food, which is rice and bean based, but was sold me was avocado and plantains. I got the number 15, which was awesome because I didn’t have to attempt to speak Spanish and it tasted damn good. You can tell this place is muy authentico since the dude had a really hard time with my name and ended up calling out “Brulalala” or something.

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Jared was not in tow so I don’t know what food was spicy but not too spicy, but Stan got a stuffed burger from the burger Guild with sweet potato fries. Including a drink, he paid $9 which is a damn value if you ask me. It was certainly not the neatest burger ever eaten, but his review was quite favorable, and like I said, free wet naps!

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The pork chop cart hooked up Lemmy with a water bowl and even a treat, giving this cart high marks for dog friendliness too. Over all, I would like to go back and try more of the carts and Stan gave Ala Carts a hearty two thumbs up. Oh and I almost forgot to mention, how can you be mad at the fun play on words that is the name?

mulligans

3518 SE Hawthorne Blvd

Mulligan's on Urbanspoon

Date of Visit: March 11, 2010

Cost for 2 (with tip): $21

Since it’s getting close to St. Patrick’s day, it seems fitting we’d finally make it to Mulligan’s, although, the impending holiday actually has nothing to do with why we went there. A combination of attempting to be less fat and attempting not to spend so much money has slowed the lunch blogging, but there are a few places still to cross off. Mulligan’s was one of them.

We showed up promptly at noon and were officially the only customers in there. The bar is big, with a couple pool tables, and apparently on Thursday it’s happy hour all day. Unfortunately for us, the Happy Hour food didn’t start until 4, so we were left with the regular menu. In a decision that definitely was not going to help my “diet,” I ordered a turkey bacon and avocado sandwich with a heaping pile of french fries. It was available either hot or cold, and upon the waitress’s suggesting I got it hot, or essentially “grilled.” It was indeed “melty” as she described and pretty damn good. I officially ate one half of it and still feel like I may have gained a pound, or three.

Jared’s options were limited, but who are we kidding, he would have gotten a veggie burger either way. It came with plenty of toppings and although his first review was “it’s a garden burger” he later added that it was a good veggie burger, especially thanks to the bun. Fries were plentiful and pretty tasty, and over all, it was a solid meal of indulgent bar food. However, as we didn’t eat our meal with a side of Guiness, we somewhat failed this place. What can you do?

Veggie Options: A few apps, mac and cheese and veggie burgers

Speed: Pretty average

turkey, bacon and avacado sandwich

turkey, bacon and avacado sandwich

Veggie Burger

Veggie Burger

magnolia

1522 SE 32nd Ave

Date of visit: February 3, 2010

Price for 2 (with tip) $20

We’re really winding down this project — basically the places left to go are either not really on Hawthorne, or just plain scary. Magnolia fell into the former category with it’s slightly off-the-beaten-path location on 32nd. We were actually trying to go to Chance of Rain cafe, the former occupant, but it’s gone, Magnolia is open and there we were.

I gathered this was more of a breakfast spot, the waitress was sure to let us know they served it all day, although the menu options were not very extensive for either meal. I was feeling lunchy, so I went with a BLT. Actually, I realize this has become my normal Wednesday meal, as we often hit up Hungry Tiger on hump day, and that’s what I always end up getting (even though they have $1 corn dogs.) Not sure what that says about me, guess I am getting old and boring.

Anyway, the menu reads very gourmet, so when my sandwich showed up on what appeared to be cheap toasted white bread, I wasn’t particularly excited. Luckily, the bacon was really, really good– perfectly thick and crispy — and instead of lettuce it was served with spinach (BST?), which was also a nice touch. The house chips were a definitely highlight, I can’t think of another place in Portland that makes their own that are so thin and yummy. Oh and the pickle was legitimately spicy, as promised on the menu. It was an overall decent lunch, until I realized it cost $7.50. Not trying to be cheap, but at Hungry Tiger I get the half- order (more than enough for me) and it’s under $5 (and it has avocado on it!)

Jared got a veggie burger, which may have been the only true veggie option on the menu, and since he won’t ever tell me what he thinks, I will go off looks. The bun and burger patty seemed mismatched. The burger was thick for a veggie patty, but the bun was even thicker, almost bloated. Maybe it was soft and delicious, but it looked a bit odd. The sides were the same so refer to my review above for those.

I wasn’t entire upset up the offerings at Magnolia, the food was very ok, and I’d bet it would be a good choice for line-free weekend brunch. Overall, it seemed a bit to0 unnecessarily gourmet. Instead of offering fancy food, a better plan would just be offering good food, but maybe that’s just me.

Veggie options: Limited

Speed: It was empty and the service was good, accordingly.

BLT

BLT

Veggie Burger

Veggie Burger

jam

2239 SE Hawthorne Blvd

Jam on Hawthorne on Urbanspoon

Date of visit: January 13, 2010

Price for 2 (with tip) $18.50

Jam on Hawthorne is a pretty typical Portland breakfast joint, and if you know any thing about Portland, that’s a good thing, at least foodwise. Ample portions, lots of variety and a full bar with all sorts of specialty cocktails are a must for any go-to breakfast spot in this town. But of course, there is a dark side to almost all of the good ones: the are small and usually crowded, and unfortunately, this much is also true for Jam.

We managed to arrive at prime lunch time, and had to put our names on the list and wait a good 10-15 minutes for a table. On a Wednesday. So accordingly if you try to hit up Jam on a weekend between 10-1, plan on standing out in the rain.

The menu boasts more breakfast options than lunch, but solid choices for either. Jared went lunch, with a grilled cheese and tomato with hash browns, and I went breakfast, with “The Bizness.” Not only did this corned beef, egg and onion sandwich have an awesome name, but I felt “blog-ligated” to get it. Yes, I just made that word up, but as the menu had an entire corned beef section, with the words “house-made” and “slow-roasted” in the description, it seemed like something I needed to try to get the true Jam experience.

My sandwich was giant. Like giant to the point that I looked at it for a few minutes trying to figure out how to get it down, and when I finished half of it, I rewarded myself with a pat on the back. As for the quality of the corned beef, well, as I realized shortly after ordering, I am in no way qualified to review corned beef. Aside from the occasional St. Patty’s Day dinner, I never really eat the stuff. But given my unsophisticated palate, I’d say it was pretty damn good, and definitely tender. The whole thing was quite tasty– soft rye bread and sweet and tangy long island dressing. Next time I would definitely opt to split it with someone else though, eating as much as I did mostly succeeded in making me need a nap.

We were both happy with our meals, but I am not sure that the food at Jam is worth the wait. I mean, it’s good, but like I said before, if you’re going to serve breakfast in Portland, it better be good! There was no shortage of variety and the hash browns were nice and crispy (I like to think of them as healthy french fries!) but I don’t think you’ll be seeing me sitting outside in the rain waiting for a table next Saturday.

Veggie options: tons, basically everything except the corned beef can be ordered vegetarian

Speed: Aside from waiting for a table it was respectable

Grilled cheese and tomato

Grilled cheese and tomato

The Bizness

The Bizness

spaceroom

4800 SE Hawthorne Blvd

http://www.spaceroomlounge.com/

Space Room/Brite Spot on Urbanspoon

Date of Visit: 1/12/2010

Price for 2 (with tip): $14.50

After yesterday’s round up of places yet to go, it became clear we’re pretty much scraping the bottom of the barrel on Hawthorne. 80% of remaining restaurants are of the scummy bar variety, and, well, my ass is already fat enough. But one place I hadn’t thought of was Big Bertha’s; a-ten-dollar-and-under gyro sounded mighty delicious today. It turned out though, that there was a reason we hadn’t tried it: this is is exclusively a late night spot. So we hastily opted for the Space Room, directly across the street.

I’ve been to this bar before, with its cosmic theme and black light-laden decor, for fishbowls. Really, the pursuit of fruity drinks is the only good and reasonable reason one would ever step inside. But on this day, we were there for lunch. I felt like I would need a lunch beer to really enjoy, so I ordered a Session as the 11 fluid oz seems a safe lunch beer option.

The menu is actually surprising extensive, though all of the pub food variety. One bonus is $1 off menu items every day before seven. Score. I figured I’d play it safe and go with a burger and tots, while Jared did the same with a grilled cheese and onion rings. Again, the choice of cheeses and bread was impressive for the overall scumminess of the bar, so I was hopeful. Some of my favorite food in Portland comes from bars: Slow Bar, Night Lite and Dots to name a few, so I figured best case scenario this could be a hidden gem.

The food came though, and was pretty much what you’d expect from a bar lit with black lights. Dripping in grease. It wasn’t terrible, though the tater tots we’re a bit over cooked. It just wasn’t anything to write home about.¬† And shortly after eating my burger, well, if both meals including the beer didn’t come to $12, total I would have been pissed about my stomachache.

Speed: Took a little bit to get service, but food came out quickly

Veggie options: standard bar options: veggie burger, grilled cheese etc. ixnay on the being vegan though.

Burger and tots

Burger and tots

Grilled cheese on dark rye with Onion rings

Grilled cheese on dark rye with Onion rings

wholebowl

4409 SE Hawthorne Blvd

www.thewholebowl.com

Whole Bowl SE on Urbanspoon

Date of Visit: December 17, 2009

Price for 2: $13

The first visit to the Whole Bowl is an interesting experience, because it’s definitely not your normal restaurant. After all, there is a grand total of one thing on the menu. Your choices include what size and an option to omit any of the standard ingredients. You can also choose to get chips (of the basic tortilla variety served up in an unimpressive ziplock bag) or not. And they have a variety of drinks including Hansen’s soda, which is always a plus. Personally, I really like one item on the menu, but Jared was not so much a fan. But it is what it is, and actually, the Hawthorne location is a big step up (in Jared’s ideals) from the other locations in Portland since it’s not a cart like the rest of them.

And on this, our second visit to the place together, he warmed slightly to the whole bowl. If you’re wondering, what they serve here is a bowl with beans, rice, cheese, salsa, sour cream, olives, cilantro, avocado and “tali sauce,” which is lemony and garlicky and makes it taste good. It’s the sort of thing that if you are in the right mood is really delicious. If you want say, a sandwich or a slice of pizza, not so much.

But I like this place for lunch because it’s cheap, fast, and simple, and the fact that there really are no decisions to be made is sort of nice, sometimes. In the summer it’s great because they open up all the windows and you get the outdoor eating experience on the east end of Hawthorne, but with the roof Jared desires in an eatery. Jared’s main complaint this time was that he wished the chips were “better,” so I told him next time we could bring our own, or better yet, get the bowls to go. Then you can eat them with whatever damn chips you want, right?

Veggie options: No meat on the menu. It’s gluten free as well.

Speed: No cooking required

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nicksconeyisland

3746 SE Hawthorne Blvd

www.nicksfamousconeys.com

Nick's Famous Coney Island on Urbanspoon

Date of Visit: November 17, 2009

Price for 2 (with tip): $23.25

We’d actually tried Nick’s shortly before embarking on this blog project, and being honest, our review then wasn’t good. I’d gotten a burger, because the A Frame outside says “Best Burgers in Town” explicitly and I felt obligated to test it out. Jared got a veggie coney and we both had the mac salad because that day the fryer happened to be broken. We both found ourselves incredible underwhelmed, and never planning to return.

But as we now make all lunch-related decisions by this blog, and Nick’s Famous Coney Island is one of those staple-type places on Hawthorne, it seemed we’d have to give it another shot. I had a great plan: I was going to get a Coney and Jared could get a veggie burger or something else since his in his first experience the veggie coney was more like a “mushy pile of fake meat” than he wanted. It was brilliant really.

On this visit, the fryer was definitely working, and you could smell it the second you walked in the door. Things were looking better already. But when we looked at the menu, poor Jared realized the veggie coney was actually the only veggie option on the menu, so he was stuck getting it again. We ended up with two coneys (one meaty, one not) and both subbed fries for the extra buck. This time the verdict was better, mostly because of the fries. They were awesome. Crispy and simple, just a light sprinkling of Lawry’s (or something similar.) As for the Coney, mine wasn’t bad, but it was definitely junk food (right down to the slice of American cheese.) The “coney” sauce was a little boring, and I ended up with a ton extra on my plate after I’d eaten away the bun and hot dog. Jared’s review was similar, but he agreed the fries made everything better.

I suppose if you are in the mood for a coney, Nick’s is your place. The NYC/baseball theme is cool if you are into that sort of thing and service and prices are reasonable. Personally, I think I’ll go back to Zach’s Shack next time I want a hot dog for lunch.

Speed: Pretty average

Veggie Options: Officially one choice (two if you count a plain veggie dog)

Veggie Coney

Veggie Coney

Single Coney

Single Coney

barleymill

1629 SE Hawthorne Blvd

http://www.mcmenamins.com/index.php?loc=10&id=313

Barley Mill Pub on Urbanspoon

Date of Visit: November 12, 2009

Price for 2 (with tip): $22

The Barley Mill is the oldest McMenamins pub in Portland, and if you’ve been to one McMenamins, you pretty much know what to expect. Pub food and good beer served up in whatever kitschy theme that location happens to be dedicated to. The theme here is the Greatful Dead, and the walls and even ceiling are covered with brightly colored junk of that ilk, but I tried not to hold that against them. When you really start to pay attention, there are subtle differences in the menus and offerings at each location, and as it turns out, Barley Mill is actually very well catered towards the midday meal.

Missing from the menu are the heartier (and more expensive) pasta dishes, as well as pizza. Instead there is a plethora of sandwich, wrap and burger options not found at every other location. So basically, tons of lunch food, not so much for dinner. Another perk of this place, especially over the nearby by Bagdad, is the service. At least on our visits it has always been good. It seems more adequately staffed overall, and we literally had two servers doting on us the whole time, replacing our drinks without having to ask, etc.

I went with the Tequilla lime chicken sandwich, mostly because if you put avocado on a sandwich I am going to order it. I wasn’t disappointed: tender chicken, avocado, lettuce, tomato, tons of melted cheddar cheese and spicy mayo. They did load up the red onions, which I as usual, opted to pick off. It was a bit messy, but overall good, and they were kind enough to provide a sharp knife with all the burgers so you could cut them in half. Another point scored for Barley Mill.

Jared felt bad ordering his usual, a communication breakdown burger, since we already covered that, and went with a standard Beer Garden Burger instead. I just asked for his review, and he said, “It was a good veggie burger, better than just a plain garden burger. And the size was ample.” Profound really.

So there you have it. 20-plus years on the corner of 17th and Hawthorne, The Barley Mill must be doing something right and we were not let down.

Speed: Faster than the Bagdad

Veggie options: Several sandwiches and any burger can be made veggie

Tequilla lime chicken sandwich

Tequilla lime chicken sandwich

Beer garden burger

Beer garden burger

burgerville

1122 SE Hawthorne Blvd

Burgerville.com

Burgerville on Urbanspoon

Date of Visit: November 10, 2009

Price for 1: $7.59

Jared hates Burgerville. For that reason he made it a point that if we were going to do this blog project, we were not including chains, so we wouldn’t have to go there. I should note though, the reason Jared hates Burgerville is because you need a key to get into the bathroom and one time he tried to use the WiFi and it didn’t work. And I, on the other hand, really like the place.

Yes Burgerville is a fast food joint, but it’s so much better than your average fast food restaurant. The biggest reason being that they use local ingredients and the menu changes with the season. Since it’s almost Thanksgiving, a few items with cranberry, pumpkin and sweet potatoes are available. Personally, my favorite season at Burgerville is early summer because that’s when they have Strawberry Lemonade. I have literally slammed on to brakes and swerved across lanes of traffic when I noticed the sign for it.

Today I got to go to Burgerville because Jared decided to work from home. Since it has a drive thru, it’s a perfect option to grab something quick and bring it back to the office to eat, and that’s what I did. I figured I might as we branch out from my usual crispy chicken¬† basket and got the season special burger: a turkey burger with cranberry salsa. I’ll be honest, from the picture and description, I wasn’t really sure about it, but I figured what the hell.

When I took my first bite of this gourmet burger, I must say I was pleasantly surprised. The salsa was sweet with a little kick and I like how not-greasy the turkey burger was. The whole wheat bun really tied the whole the together. But as I kept eating it, I found it getting less appealing with every bite, and by halfway through I really wished I just went with a normal menu item. It seems like this is how it goes with all the season sandwiches, really. They are good, but a little much, and there’s something to be said for a classic burger. Luckily, Burgerville has those too. I’d like to say next time I’ll make a better choice, but I know I won’t. I’m a sucker for limited time items! Oh well.

Veggie options: Since they switched to the Harvest Burger patties a while back, the veggie burgers are actually not that good.

Speed: It’s a damn drive thru

Turkey burger with cranberry salsa basket

Turkey burger with cranberry salsa basket

grandcentral

2230 SE Hawthorne Blvd

http://www.grandcentralbakery.com/store_hawthorne.html

Grand Central Bakery & Cafe on Urbanspoon

Date of visit: November 6, 2009

Price for 2: $18.65

Before we started this blog project, we hit up Grand Central almost every week. The funny thing is, my only real issue with it was I thought it was a little on the spendy side. Now that I’ve tried tons of different places and seen what’s out there, I’m pretty sure that Grand Central Bakery is actually one of the best lunch options on Hawthorne, in terms of price and quality.

As the name implies, the star of the sandwiches here is the fresh-baked bread. Different sandwiches come on different breads, everything¬† from baguettes to como bread to calamata olive bread. From reading this blog you might notice that I am partial to tuna melts, and honestly, I usually get a tuna tosti, which is “Herb and caper tuna salad and sharp white cheddar cheese served hot on Sourdough.” But I stared feeling self concious that people might think I was some weird George Costanza-type, and today I got a special, the pulled pork sandwich. Unlike most things on the menu it came with a side of coleslaw in addition to the usual pickle and at $6.25 was definitely a good deal. The sandwich was awesome, super soft bread, tender pork and flavorful BBQ sauce. Super simple and on par with “authentic” pulled pork I’ve had in the south. It wasn’t particularly messy either, which was nice. As for the coleslaw, it wasn’t the best I’ve had in Portland (that is a tie between the Delta Cafe and Clay’s Smokehouse) but it did have a nice texture and decent flavor (I would have preferred it a little sweeter.)

The coleslaw was a definitely bonus. Usually, sandwiches don’t come with a side (just a pickle) and you have to opt for the “sack lunch” that adds $1.80 to the price. Jared always goes for this option, which includes chips and a cookie, and I usually just steal a few chips from him. (He’ll tell you, I always steal his food.) I guess this would be another gripe with this place though, I would way rather get a drink than a cookie with my meal deal. But that’s just me, I don’t really care for sweets.

Speed: Pretty average for fresh made sandwiches

Veggie options: Several sandwiches and usually at least one special

Mediterranian Tosti Sack Lunch

Mediterranean Tosti Sack Lunch

Pulled Pork Sandwich

Pulled Pork Sandwich